Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ghosts of Christmas Past

As Christmas approaches I am always reminded of an incident which happened many years ago. My best friend’s little boy was 7 or 8 years old, which is about the age when logic sets in and kids put aside fantasies of Tooth Fairies, Easter Bunnies and Santa Clause. My friend gently prodded the boy as to what his beliefs were on the subject of Santa. Although, she would have been happy with a simple yes or no response… her son, a very bright kid was willing to explain his position. YES, he does believe in Santa, because if Santa wasn’t real we wouldn’t know how to think him up. In philosophical terms, I would call this the “Santalogical Argument”. This is the same circular reasoning that has been used in the “Ontological Argument” for hundreds of years to prove the existence of God. Does this small event exemplify the boy’s maturity of thought or the inherent childishness of the Ontological Argument? Either way I personally love the Santalogical Argument.
Ultimately every child comes to understand that presents are put under the tree by grown-ups. Which is a good thing; because part of the Santa mythology is that good kids score better at Christmas then bad kids. So if it were all up to a magical elf, every well behaved child would get their hearts desire… up to and including a pony. I wonder if this misconception might be the root of our cultural tendancy to assign our self worth on the basis of our stuff / money…
Some people were so dis-illusioned by the discovery of the Santa myth that they refuse to “lie” to their own kids. What they don’t realize is that human beings have so little time to be purely innocent in our thinking. While we can continue to image fairies and elves… there is only a small window of time when our brains will allow us to truly believe. The time to be honest with your child (in this, as in all things) is when they ask the question. If a child is old enough to ask the question (be sure to clarify the question) they are ready to handle the answer. And if you didn’t like the way your parents dealt with the situation, resolve to handle it better for your children.
I remember how I found out about the Santa Myth and I would like to share that story with you here. At the age of 4 or 5, I was standing on a chair at the kitchen table while my Grandma wrapped Christmas presents. She handed me a card and told me to print, “to Grandpa… love Santa”. My Grandpa died before my 6th birthday, but I knew my alphabet so I have to assume age 4 or 5. I asked my Grandma if Santa if would be mad that we were signing his name. And she explained to me that, Santa is the spirit of giving that we all feel at Christmas time… so we are all Santa, even little kids like me. In ten minutes I went from believing in a generous magical being who spread joy at Christmas; to having that power for myself.

Whether it is God or Santa (and I paraphrase here), for the nonbeliever no proof is enough… for the believer no proof is necessary. Have a very HAPPY HOLIDAY… whatever you believe.

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